What an incredible 8 days MPOLE had in the last week and a bit of the term. The excitement started with Family Astronomy Club on Thursday 19th. Miss M Harrington started off with an explanation of what a solargraph is and how Mr Perkins would be preparing an experiment during the evening. Basically it is a sealed pinhole camera that captures the trails of our Sun as it passes by each day, leaving trails on the image. This then shows the apparent movement, rise and fall of the Sun over the course of a number of months. Mr Perkins showed members the equipment and went off to the makeshift darkroom in the observatory to load the photographic paper into the canisters.
Miss N Ellender then gave a talk on the coming solar eclipse, the mechanics involved and how to observe the Sun safely. This was followed by making pinhole eclipse viewers from cardboard boxes and tinfoil.
These were duly tested using the lights in the room to see a projection of them inside the box. Mr Perkins returned having loaded and sealed the canisters which members then added their names to and helped mount them onto the experiment.
Solar Eclipse Day! March 20th was of course the day of the solar eclipse. The weather was indeed very kind indeed for this spectacular day which started very early for staff preparing things in order to try something new for The Long Eaton School. To give students the safest and best possible view of the eclipse it was decided to stream the celestial dance live from the observatory using the hydrogen alpha telescope and a webcam. The live feed was sent out to local schools to enable them too to tune in and watch the event unfold. What followed next was totally unexpected. As the feed went live people started to join in and watch, the numbers soon started to climb, first 500 then 1,000 and soon the number started to spiral until for a brief moment in excess of 118,000 people from all over the world were watching live! As well as the live feed BBC Radio Derby broadcasted live for the entire event from the observatory.
Outside students observed the eclipse via a number of other methods including pinhole projectors made the previous evening and using special solar eclipse viewing glasses, kindly donated by the “Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project”. Since the eclipse the live feed has now been viewed in 189 countries by more than 330,000 devices. Our Youtube channel also now contains a white light time lapse video of the eclipse.
Moving forward to Monday 23rd and some very important history landed at the school in the form of Lunar samples brought back by a number of the Apollo Moon landings. The samples, on loan from STFC, arrived for the start of Stargazing Live week at the school. The first event was for staff on the Tuesday evening. Staff were treated to a look at the Moon through our Meade 16inch telescope and a chance to see the Lunar samples and assorted other meteorites.
Stargazing Live 2015 Public Showcase.
The proceedings started early with students attending a workshop by the National Schools Observatory (Liverpool Telescope) which it is hoped might help with their GCSE studies. The public event started at 6pm and was very well attended. There were a great many activities for visitors to take part in and exhibits to admire. In the Gymnasium there was a mobile planetarium where Steve Ibbotson of Astrosphere gave 3 packed shows about the constellations and night sky. Also in the Gym was a display of work by our GCSE Astronomy students, “Cool Science” presented by Pete Wearn – a show best described as a variety show extravaganza of science experiments that proved fun for all ages and included liquid nitrogen. Also the National Schools Observatory had an exhibition explaining their work and giving away many different goodies including edible moon rock for the sweet toothed.
The East Midlands Stargazers were present in force with a vast array of observing equipment including a very impressive brass Broadhurst Clarkson refractor on a beautifully restored wooden tripod. Many of them were set up outside where visitors were able to look at the Moon, Jupiter and other such celestial delights through the telescopes. There was also chance to warm up with hot drinks, pie and mushy peas in the food hub.
Lunar samples were on display in the library with comet making demonstrations next door and observatory tours which proved very popular with a constant queue of visitors. In the bottom of the rotunda there were displays of posters and thank you cards from one of our visiting outreach group of Brownies. Also there were pictures of the eclipse and the previous weeks Aurora as seen just 12 miles or so up the road in Belper.
Over in the main school building visitors had chance to participate in many different and interesting experiments in the discovery zone which led through to the main hall. In the main hall at 7pm we were honoured to welcome back Anu Ojha OBE, director of the National Space Academy who gave an inspiring and exciting talk about why space exploration is so very important to us all. The talk included some exciting demonstrations too, including showing the principal of how rocket engines work with the whoosh bottle experiment. All in all the public showcase event was action packed all the way with many visitors leaving excited and hopefully inspired.
Long Eaton Astronomical Society met on Thursday 26th March to close stargazing live week with the ever popular guest speaker Paul Money. Paul, writer for “Sky At Night” magazine guided us through the 10 images he considers to have been inspirational to him and deepening his interest in astronomy. Paul’s whitty delivery certainly proved very popular and certainly left members wanting more. Hopefully we can tempt him to return again and deliver “vol 2” of the series that started off as just the one. After the talk Paul stayed for a tour of the observatory as well as talking enthusiastically to members and having a look with them at the Lunar samples and meteorites. Sadly the samples have now been returned but hopefully we will be able to loan them again. That also closes the 8 days that have been so very busy for the school. There is not much left to add other than thanks to all who helped to make those 8 days so wonderful and to leave you with a few images from the showcase event.